Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Thanks to Johnny's!










Huge thank you to Johnny's Selected Seeds for their generous donation of seeds!   These seeds will be put to good use toward the Lettuce Link mission of facilitating access to fresh, nutritious, and organic produce for everyone.

A small portions of seeds will be used directly to grow produce for donation on our two urban farms – the Giving Garden at Marra Farm and the Seattle Community Farm. The majority of the seeds will be distributed to community gardeners throughout Seattle who grow organic produce for Seattle area food banks and to limited income individuals and their families who use food bank services to increase both food accessibility and self-sufficiency. Last year together with these individual gardeners, 56,452 pounds of organic produce were grown and donated to Seattle food banks, meal programs, and shelters.  
We can't wait to watch these seeds grow!

A Visit to Twin Ponds Community Garden

Lettuce Link Intern Rhona visited the Twin Ponds Community Garden this summer.

Nestled within Twin Ponds Park, a $30,000 initiative by the City of Shoreline City Council to create a community garden resulted in today’s Twin Ponds Community Garden. Since 2010, the once-fallow area previously mined for peat consists of 38 garden plots, water hydrants, shed, gathering area, and most notably, a “giving garden” staffed by volunteers for food donation. Along with being an effective use of land and promoting views of a “healthy city,” Twin Ponds Community Garden strives to stimulate community interaction and improve economic development within the area.  

A walk past the Honey, Mason, and Spelling beds, all food donation beds commemorated after different types of bees, spans 17 plots and growing – and not a minute is spared. Beds are turned over as soon as the harvest is in, crops are rotated to keep the soil nutrient-rich, and volunteers are year-round to ensure maximal yield of the land, no time wasted nor inch spared.
Upon arriving to Twin Ponds, Nancy, a 4th year garden coordinator, led me on a tour of the community garden, proudly pointing out the zucchinis, squash, and tomatoes that were starting to come out. She led me past some well-maintained P-Patch gardens with quirky garden art hugging the vegetation, past the giving gardens, and to the garden gathering area, where garlic sprouts were sun-bathing on the picnic table. She and three others, Shellie, Randy, and Mical, were appointed by the city to head each work day, to oversee farm operations, and to communicate with their local food banks – a year-round effort.

Twin Ponds Community Garden is not only an example of sustainable gardening, but it is one of many symbols of community engagement. Here, we have neighborhood interaction and community cooperation – a badge of sustainability and service that the city of Shoreline can proudly wear.

There are four garden coordinators at Twin Ponds. They monitor the P-Patch rented plots - 36 10ft×10ft raised beds and 2 4ft×10ft accessible beds – but their real job lies within the center of the garden, a “giving garden” run by volunteers that has yielded upwards of 3000 pounds of fresh produce to date for the Hopelink Shoreline Food Bank.
To learn more about Twin Ponds Community Garden and how you can volunteer, click here.







Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Training and Teaching, Gardening and Giving

Lettuce Link Intern Rhona got a chance to meet with Dorothy and Lar, two community giving gardeners.  

Meet Dorothy and Lar, both are lovers of all things outdoors, nature, and gardening. Growing up in Gilroy, California on an apricot prune farm with two hundred chickens and a cow, Dorothy was able to find an outlet for gardening in her current house, a quarter-acre plot of land she and Lar have worked and lived on for the past eight to nine years.

Having bought the land knowing they could fix the house, Dorothy and Lar worked intensively to make their quarter acre into the lush and plentiful garden it is today – one that yields over 130 pounds of produce a year, most of which is harvested to feed the family, to offer to the neighborhood, and to donate to Picardo Food Bank. Together, Dorothy and Lar have become strongly involved in their local community, getting people involved with growing their own food, and forming a seed-trading and garden-teaching program with friends and neighbors. In addition to providing a source of seeds and planting advice to the public, they have initiated a neighborhood Blockwatch, a neighborhood alert system connecting residents within a safety network, and been the head organizer of events such as Tuesday Night Out, the first Tuesday of every August when Lar and Dorothy roll rye, trade seeds, and invite policemen and firemen to come and talk about neighborhood safety.

As we walk through beds of potatoes, tomatoes, radishes, and zucchini, Dorothy points out each vegetable, making a checklist of things she has to do and things she already has done. Through her explanation the work seems to never end, and one can see the long and tedious process of turning residential land into farmland, the amount of effort put into breathing life into the soil and having sustainable food come out. Their job isn't easy, but their work is paying off year by year, leaving a deeper and deeper impact on the landscape of the neighborhood and the people of the community.

What follows is a piece by Dorothy herself on why she gardens:

“Why Do I Garden?”

By Dorothy Spencer

A friend came by and said, "Your always out in the garden." As I thought about this, I thought, "Not always." My life is full of activities shared with friends family and neighbors.

Why do I garden? Hmmmm...

I like the company of crows, intelligent critters who seem to sense I'm a friend. The dirt turns black and friable with care, welcoming seeds and plants. Dogs roll in my pesticide free grass, what little we have, and they eat it too. They rest happily in the shade as their owners trade seeds and plants with me, or we just graze on ripe fruits, vegetables and flowers.

Children are my small way to change the world, one person, one family at a time. Once they taste food warm from the sun, and sweet with the rich deep fresh picked flavor, they remember, get the growing bug, and get their families to garden too. One little boy came by with his family, gravely accepted sugar snap peas, then stood there holding them in his hand. When his Mom asked him why he wasn't eating them, he said, "Because I want to plant them." He said what was true for him. This
left me wondering how many more people garden because we do. A lovely synergistic thought.

I remember when I was a child in a family low on money. I was not able to have a second apple when I was hungry. This experience left me feeling empathy for families in need, so we now share our bounty with the food bank. Stories from people getting our food warm me and keep me growing.

It's the wonder of it. My husband, Lar laughs at my childish glee. Every spring, anticipation follows me around the yard as I look for favorite perennials to poke tender heads through the soil. "Look, look, it came up, there it is!" I get to be this delighted every year in the spring and through much of the growing season.

Alone, I lean on my hoe to rest and think about the next steps. I spent time early this year developing my own companion planting chart, including a rotation schedule. We compost food waste and greens, and make weed tea to fertilize our plants. This year, as each planting finishes its growing cycle, we mulch with cardboard, chips, fall leaves, and grass clippings. This slows down weeds and helps the ground hold moisture. In a few weeks, we can pull back the mulch, plant winter crops, and gardening gets easier for me for next year.

I like gardening. It feeds me in many ways. And I really like it being easier and more fun!



Linda's Loves Lettuce Link

A huge thanks to Linda Derschang and the staff at a few of her iconic eateries and watering holes, Tallulah's, Oddfellows Cafe+Bar, and Smith!  Linda and a group of twenty employees came out to Marra Farm last month to work the fields and for a farm tour.  Not only did Linda's group work the farm but they donated a portion of proceeds to Lettuce Link from the meatless Mondays at Tallulah's, Oddfellows, and Smith in July and August!  .

Partnerships with local businesses that share our values are part of a recipe for success and sustainability. We look forward to continued collaboration with Linda and her staff. 
Lettuce Link Staff

Amelia, Kathleen, Kyong, Nate and Scott

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Save the date for Fall Fest!





Please join us for the 13th Annual
Marra Farm Fall Fest
Celebrate the harvest,
South Park style!

Saturday, September 20, 12:00–3:00PM

Marra Farm: 9026 4th Ave S
(between South Henderson and South Barton)
* farm-fresh food * apple cider pressing *
* live music * children’s activities * farm tours *
 
Free and family friendly!
Volunteers needed: assist with kids’ activities; prep, grill, and serve food;
wash dishes; help setup and cleanup, etc.
Contact Kyong: kyongs@solid-ground.org or 206.713.3247
We hope to see you there!
~ The Lettuce Link team:
Amelia, Kathleen, Kyong, Nate and Scott
Lettuce Link’s Giving Garden at Marra Farm is a program of Solid Ground
        


Unfortunately, Marra Farm is not wheelchair accessible

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lettuce Link Transitions

Lettuce Link Community Members,

I am excited to announce the arrival of Kathleen Penna to the Lettuce Link team!  Kathleen came on board last week as the new Program Coordinator, replacing Robin DeCook after six great years.  Kathleen comes to us with a wealth of experience in  volunteer coordination, data management and youth development, having worked with former Solid Ground programs Penny Harvest, Washington Reading Corps, and the City of Edmonds over the past ten years. 

The entire Lettuce Link team is excited that Kathleen is our new program coordinator and looks forward to the great work ahead.

Nate Moxley
Lettuce Link Program Manager



 A note from Kathleen:

I would like to thank the Lettuce Link community for the warm welcome! Both personally and through my work with young people and families in the region, I have seen first-hand the importance of access to good food.  I am excited to be a part of a program that upholds those values, and that works in collaboration with communities to make incredible things happen.  I look forward to meeting many more of you in the weeks ahead!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

From the Valley to the Banks

One day a week our summer intern, Rhona, volunteers at the Rainier Valley Food Bank, which receives produce from the Seattle Community Farm. Here are some of her reflections. 

As community gardeners, we often wonder at the market value of our produce. How much money is today’s harvest worth? How many meals can it make or mouths can it feed?

At the Seattle Community Farm, Tuesdays are harvesting days. That is when the beets come up and the raspberries fall down, when the crates for delivery stack up for washing and weighing before its final destination: the food bank. And that’s where we are headed today, to see how many mouths we can feed with the produce nurtured with community hands.

It is 8 in the morning. At the Rainier Valley Food Bank, a crowd of people already wait at the front door, many with large bags and containers. The food bank doors are shut but within there is a rush of activity. Crates are unloaded and stacked in a pick-up line system, the garage is prepped for quick restocking, and volunteers are standing at each station, ready to distribute the food: a package of chicken, a few vegetables, some canned goods. The hungry are many, and the resources always go quickly.

Looking into the storage garage, where the shelves are fully stocked for the week, you realize the meaning of “group effort.” Those ten crates over there are from Lettuce Link's Seattle Community Farm, those other ten at the entrance are from local P-Patch Giving Gardens and Seattle Tilth’s Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands, and those being unloaded just now are from local grocery stores, as well as Northwest Harvest, and Food Lifeline. In the other corner being unboxed are packages of gnocchi, instant mashed potatoes, mushroom quinoa, and various snack products.

In that one food bank on that one day, there must have been over a dozen separate nonprofits, stores, and organizations that contributed to the food distributed that morning. But is it enough? The shelves are empty at the end of the day, yet familiar faces come back every week, and we ask ourselves just how many mouths can we feed? 

Because at the end of the day, when the empty crates are stacked outside awaiting restocking from the next deliveries, and when the numbers of food bank clients checked-in are calculated, I am seeing first-hand that perhaps helping stop hunger and providing food means not just providing a safety net that gives people food for a day. It’s so much more complicated than that. One piece of food justice means creating opportunities and resources for people of all backgrounds and income levels to learn how to grow their own food – skills they can use to feed their families for a lifetime.